PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (Appea) has warned that banning oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight could potentially increase Australia’s reliance on imported oil and deprive South Australia of much-needed new investment and jobs while delivering no environmental benefit.
The warning comes as the Greens party introduced legislation to the Senate that would see the Great Australian Bight Marine National Park protected from companies wishing to drill for oil and gas.
“The Parliament has to step in and make sure that this national treasure is protected for generations to come," Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
Regulating body the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) is due to rule on oil major BP's latest application for a licence to drill in the Bight in just a week's time.
The Greens are calling for the decision to be delayed so that greater scrutiny of the proposal can be undertaken.
Appea director for South Australia, Matthew Doman, said the legislation introduced by the Greens was unnecessary and economically damaging.
Doman said any exploration in the Bight would only proceed under the highest environmental standards and only after intense scrutiny by Nopsema.
“Nopsema does not allow any petroleum activities to proceed without the highest standards of environment and safety legislation, and appropriate community consultation,” he said.
“The legislation proposed by the Greens will undermine Nopsema’s independence and integrity and the regulatory certainty that is necessary to attract new investment in offshore exploration.
“Australia already imports most of its oil. Unless new discoveries are made, we will soon be relying on imports for all of our transport fuels.”
He added that companies that were prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in exploration activity should be allowed to get on with the job.
“With proper regulatory oversight, there’s no reason why South Australia cannot have a safe, sustainable offshore petroleum industry, just as Victoria and Western Australia have had for several decades.
“The potential benefits in terms of jobs, investment and revenues to government could be significant.”
Doman said oil and gas exploration, as well as other commercial activities such as fishing, had been allowed in the Great Australian Bight marine reserve since 1995 and a recent government review had recommended no change to its multiple use status.